Playing the Villain: Hatred's Draw on Steam Greenlight

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Playing the Villain: Hatred's Draw on Steam Greenlight

It may well be the most pronounced case of “playing the villain” ever to be noted in a game. A game called “Hatred” has been making the rounds, and is currently camped out on Steam Greenlight, seeking to get access to the popular online gaming marketplace. And while Hatred's oeuvre is about as dark as midnight in a mineshaft, it's not exactly unique. But what does this game—and this game's controversy—say about gaming as a whole?

Hatred's premise is as simple as it is disturbing. Based on the trailer, you play a guy—the guy specifically notes that his name is not important, but rather what he's about to do is—who's really just had enough of life, and has decided to go out in a big way; specifically, he wants to go out shooting anyone and everything in sight. Thus, you play as what would have been one of history's biggest mass murderers, and attempt to kill anything that so much as wanders near your field of vision, racking up the biggest possible “score” of deaths you can before you too are pretty much inevitably brought down.

It's hard to say much about Hatred, yet it's almost hard not to. This is a game that's shot in the starkest of styles, mostly black and white with quite a bit of red, and if you came in here believing there would not be blood, you will walk away gravely disappointed. The gameplay itself, meanwhile, is reminiscent of a hundred games before it, though usually, the targets in said games are aliens, zombies, monsters beyond imagining, or even some kind of soldiery of a genocidalist madman. Commonly, users don't play the genocidalist madman, and here, they do, a madman that's dressed in a fashion that virtually screams disaffected nihilism, complete with Columbine-era black trenchcoat and stringy black hair.

The problem with this game in particular is that, at its roots, it's nothing new, and yet it's utterly new. This isn't the first time you'll play the villain; a host of games have allowed for that possibility from the various installments of the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise to the various titles in the Bethesda line; have we forgotten so soon the Dark Brotherhood missions of “Skyrim”, setting up the perfect snipe to take out a head of state or the like? Have we forgotten “Fallout 3”, in which we may well choose to set off a nuclear blast in the town of Megaton just for a place at the table in Tenpenny Tower? Or conversely, persuade a horde of angry ghouls to run roughshod on Tenpenny Tower, killing its inhabitants in the name of turning the bigoted enclave into a ghouls-only establishment? Hatred is hardly the first time we've committed mass homicide; pursue the Manhattan Project in “Civilization”?

But this is the first time that it's been quite this stark; normally, such violence is pursued in quest of a goal. Free the free world, make the world safe for ghouls, save the day in some way. Hatred, meanwhile, has us gunning down shopping malls in pursuit of a madman's dream of just plain killing. We're not saving anyone, we're not freeing anyone, we're not even making a better life for ourselves, which would be odious but at least understandable. We're just killing, until we die, and that's a goal that's hard to wrap your head around.

But does that mean that no one should play the game? Well, that's a tough call. We want to leave freedom of expression on the table; if we ban this today, what will we ban tomorrow? That's a point that should be a concern to every gamer out there. But what lunatic would actually have an interest in playing this beyond the visceral or the curious? It's impossible to empathize with this maniac.

Therefore what I suggest is simple. Let it go. Let it get in the markets. Make it available, let people buy it. Let market pressures force this excrescence of a video game to go bankrupt when it arrives. Those who want a crack at it can have their crack at it. Let the market define what it will take and what it will not, and let those who can't even fathom how such a game can exist withhold their dollars and their support. The market must be free and open, and those titles which so fundamentally offend the market will likely die off under the strength of little support. But at the end of the day, the market must make the decision, not a central government or a particularly vocal parents' group.

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